Saturday, January 17, 2009

Waitin' For My Gin To Hit Me

I recently came across an early version of Ronnie Self's "Waitin For My Gin To hit Me." I knew he had written it, but the only version I had previously heard was by The Skeletons. I asked around to people who might know about this recording and was directed to Bobby Lloyd Hicks.

Here's what he had to say about it:

One day (I'm guessing around '70/'71) Ronnie came by Wayne Carson's Top Talent studio in Springfield, Missouri, with three of his boys in tow. They were just little kids, maybe ages 7,8, that range. After a while he asked me, "Can you run that thing?", referring to the eight-track machine. I told him I did know how to record with the two-track, so he says, "Well set it up. I got something for ya." I ran a couple of mics for his vocal and acoustic guitar and a mic for the boys to sing along into. While I was doing this a call came in from a prospective buyer of the studio (which was for sale at the time) who asked if he could come by and show the place to a possible investor. Sure.

I got the tape rolling and went into the studio with Ronnie and the kids. The businessmen walked in at that point and you hear the guy who had called punch the talkback button and call, "Lloyd?" as if to say "We're here." Ronnie knew this guy and didn't particularly like him, so he's telling the guy to chill out. "Tape's a' rolling [ass****]. Everything's cool..."

Sadly, not long after, I loaned the only reel to reel copy to someone to play on their radio show and it got lost. So whatever exists now are copies of the song that I happened to record off the radio the night it was broadcast.

At home Ronnie and his 7 kids had a ritual. They'd all sit in a circle on the floor, and pass a Coke around sharing sips and sing his songs. I witnessed this one evening and was amazed at how many of his songs these little kids knew, and sang along with enthusiasm.

AND, a couple of years ago there was an episode of The Chris Issak Show, in which Chris' manager leaves her daughter in the care of the band for the afternoon. When she returns the band has taught her "Waitin' For My Gin to Hit Me." My guess is that through the years someone connected with that show had heard the version of Ronnie and the kids.


"Waiting For My Gin To Hit Me" mp3
by Ronnie Self, ca. 1971.
available on Mr. Frantic Is Boppin' the Blues

"Waiting For My Gin To Hit Me" mp3
by The Skeletons, 1992.
available on Waiting

Bobby Lloyd Hicks is in The Skeletons.
He plays the drums.

"I Play The Drums" mp3
by The Skeletons, 1986.
available on In the Flesh!


Backstory to the Backstory

In 1995 my girlfriend, future ex-wife, and the mother of my son, Kit Keith and I were married in a joyous and beautiful ceremony in our hometown of St. Louis Missouri. When planning our nuptials, certain priorities arose. Originally, it was my idea to be married by a Justice of the Peace. Kit didn't go for that, and our ceremony was presided over by both a Rabbi and a Minister: all bases were covered. I chose my battle wisely, and instead focused my energy on who would entertain our guests. When searching for a band to perform at our wedding, I asked around as to who was available in St. Louis. We lived in Brooklyn and friends and family helped us in our search to book the entertainment. We tried to get Tommy Bankhead and The Blues Eldorados. For some reason that didn't work out, and I asked a friend to see if The Skeletons - who hadn't been playing gigs much at that time - were available. He said they were, we were thrilled and booked them. For those of you who don't know, The Skeletons (formerly The Morells) were a celebrated bar band whose only peers I can think of were NRBQ, and have at times backed (among others) Dave Alvin, Syd Straw and Jonathan Richman. After dinner and toasts, we convened on the dance floor. At this time, (band leader) Lou Whitney asked me if we had a song we wanted for our wedding dance. In all the chaos and anxiety leading up to the wedding, this detail had eluded me and I was at a loss. He chose "Theme from A Place Summer Place" (their repertoire was deep) and we danced our dance. After this, my eccentric and elderly hillbilly father in law, who was a retired sign painter, and had taken to wearing a beret and playing the bongos with lounge bands around Sarasota, Florida, sat in with the boys on a version of their song, "Outta My Way." The band then tore through their set sprinkled with covers of Merle Haggard, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Sonny Bono, Jimmy Dickens, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys and everything good that they knew and did. Some of the details of the evening are a little hazy, but I have a vague memory of the local inveterate terpsichorean Beatle Bob trying to crash our wedding on account of the evening's entertainment. He was duly ejected before entering. As the evening wore on and the older guests filtered out, The Skeletons finished their long set, as usual, with this strange and mesmerizing tune by Ronnie Self.


"Outta My Way" mp3
by The Skeletons, 1986.
available on In the Flesh!

"St. Louis" mp3
by The Skeletons, 1992.
available on Waiting

"It's The Little Things" mp3
by The Skeletons, 1992.
available on Waiting

"Thirty Days In The Workhouse" mp3
by The Skeletons, 1986.
available on In the Flesh!

More on The Skeletons HERE

More from Ronnie Self HERE


The Hound said...

The Skeletons/Morells also cut discs as the Original Symptons (a three song EP), D. Clinton Thompson (at least two 45's), and Bobby Lloyd Hicks & his Wandering Bootheels (at least one 45). They can also be heard on Eric Ambel's LP Roscoe's Gang.
The difference in names depends I think is who's playing drums-- if it's Ron "Wrongo" Gremp they're the Morells, if it's Bobby Hicks they're the Skeletons, the other names figure other personel changes.

Unknown said...

Wow! Ted, I can't wait to hear this track tomorrow when I 'm not at work. A major rarity, and one of my fave Skeletons songs.

By way, an aside to the Hound, the Symptoms also put out an LP, Don't Blame the Symptoms, back when they had Jim Wunderle doing the vocals.

Tony Renner said...

the skeletons did a great version of "waiting for my gin to hit me" when they were on the syndicated radio show "mountain stage" in 1992.

Maxim said...

Great story, great song, great post - thanks!

Denier said...

Saw the Skeletons backing Syd Straw at a small NYC club, Mercury Lounge, in June of '96. Great live band, very memorable show. Just looked at the ticket stub: price was $8.00. That's what's known as a rock and roll bargain.

The Hound said...

I forgot about the Symptoms LP, they played in NYC to promote it (first time I ever saw them). There's also a rare King Biscuit Flower Hour live radio disc of the Morells that has an amazing "Don't Let Your Baby Buy A Car", one of Lou Whitney's best originals, I'm not sure if they ever issued a studio version. They also backed up Eric Ambel at the Lone Star Cafe to promote the Roscoe's Gang LP, you should have heard their version of the Stooges' Raw Power, Swamp Dog's Total Destruction To Your Mind and Neil Young's Vampire Blues. I know a tape exists somewhere in my house but it would take hours of digging to find it.

bruce said...

Many different configurations, and many, many different names. The Hound mentioned Bobby Lloyd and the Wandering Bootheels, who are credited on the 45 of "Crazy Country Hop". The flip side, "Gas Money", is credited to Bobby Lloyd and the Windfall Prophets.
Both sides of the 7" "Sour Snow" b/w "Very Last Day" are credited to The Skeletons. These two 45's were released by Borrowed Records in Springfield MO, and stamped with the motto: "FEWEST RETURNS IN THE INDUSTRY".

Also out of Springfield, on the Column One label, was the very first D. Clinton Thompson record I got-- "Driving Guitars" b/w "Sleepwalk". No Bobby Lloyd here, though. Lou Whitney engineered, played bass and acoustic guitar. D.Clinton played all other guitars AND drums. I remember mailing away for this one back in 1978, and it's autographed by D.Clinton and Lou.

Anonymous said...

Great song. I've got my guitar out and I'm playing along with it now. What's that line ... "my woman got cold, but never my gin?" Cold ?

-- Lianne

Anonymous said...

Great post!
As an Australian the Skeletons are a revelation... thanks for the heads up! Love their version of the Easybeats St Louis.

Anonymous said...

DCT is the alpha and the omega.

steve scariano said...

We here in St. Louis have been so incredibly fortunate over the last 30 years for all of the times Lou & Donnie have come to town with their latest configuration of that amazing pool of Springfield talent. Starting with the Symptoms in 1978, I've seen the boys in all of their respective combos at least a hundred times now, with each show not just as much fun you can have in a bar, but highly educating as well---especially if you're a musician. It's led me to my WWLD philosophy when stuck in the road with a sticky musical decision to be made: What Would Lou Do? :)

I remember your wedding well, Ted. A glorious night indeed, made all the more glorious by in my opinion the greatest band you could ever hope to see play a wedding. Their version of "Theme From A Summer Place" was always one of the highlights of shows by the '90's version of the Skeletons.

Anonymous said...

The Skeletons are revered around St. Louis! When I was 21, I'd head to Off Broadway nearly every month to see the Skeletons play. Best and most fun bar band you'll ever see. Of course Beatle Bob was there too, and some guy who dressed up like Roy Orbison?! After reading this post, I pulled out my copy of "In The Flesh!" and I'm reminded how much fun these guys are. As Steve S. said, they are educational too (as is the Boogie Woogie Flu blog!) and I wouldn't have gotten into roots rock bands without their help. On top of that, Lou Whitney has produced many a fine record down in Springfield. The Scott Kempner one, "Tenement Angels" comes to mind. I'm sure you've heard that one, Ted?


Anonymous said...

Great post. At the bottom of the post, there is link to the Symptoms, Skeletons, Morells, etc. For those of us who saw those bands on a regular in St. Louis, we knew that part of the reason for going to the shows was that at least 75% of the music they played was not on their recorded, studio LPs (under The Symptoms, The Skeletons, etc.)

Fortunately there was a lot of taping going on, and Tom Taber has put out a series of CDs documenting the 100s of different songs those guys used to play....and he pays them for the CD sales. He's legit. Thank God for Bootleg John and those of us who begged John for his tapes...because they've ended up in the hands of a guy like Tom Taber. I just sent Tom a whole box of stuff from the all of those bands spanning the late 78 thru the 1990s.

Great stuff, incredibly price. All of Taber's stuff is on CD Baby, so you can sample before you buy.

Anonymous said...

In the early 80's my old band The Windbreakers were booked to open for the Morells at Grinnell College in Iowa. It was one of our first out of town shows and we didn't have any other shows lined up on the way. So we jumped in a van and drove forever from our homebase of Jackson MS to Iowa. The Morells were a revelation. Great folks to meet and Donnie was a jaw dropping great guitarist. I was in awe.

Bobby Sutliff

amy said...

Two great stories, the Ronnie Self one and your wedding day with The Skeletons, Ted. Nowadays, with everyone doing house concerts and private gigs it's easy to forget how amazing it felt to have The one and only Skeletons playing just for us at your reception. And Kit's dad playing the bongos was so wacky and sweet.

I thought you'd enjoy this post from the other day:

Duncanmusic said...

Coming from the frozen Northeast Upstate New York we were never blessed with getting to see The Morells & Skeletons, BUT we do have our own versions, one band in Particular that has ties to the Skeltons & Lou in particular.

First known as The Essentials then The Salamanders and now the Hi-Risers, Greg Townson & Todd Bradley and a host of others (including MY old band mate Jimmy Symonds, the Hi-Risers first drummer)have follwed much the same stylisticn ignoring and have played as the backup core band for the King AllStars (on Ichiban as were THe Salamanders) backing Hank Ballard, Fred Wesley, Clyde Stubblefield, Bobby Byrd, Bootsy Collins, Pickney St.Clair, Pee Wee Ellis (who guested on their CD)... Lou Whitney produced the Salamanders only release on Ichiban which MAY be found somewhere and if it is you would do well to check them out...The Hi-Risers are an outstanding trio that features the guitar of Greg Townson and have done European Tours and are linked up with Los Straightjackets and Eddie Angel who stole the Hi-Risers current drummer it's all a mess but if you like NRBQ and the Morells and the Skeletons and Los Straightjackets you will love the Hi-Risers. PLEASE google and follow your nose/knows. Great post as usual Ted.

Anonymous said...

The Skeletons were great. I saw them backing Syd Straw some years ago in Boston and they were a rocking little bar band! W.

tjmertz said...

Fine Stuff, the music and the stories.

I recall a great solo version by Lou Whitney at an empty Chicago club, circa 1993.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great site!

First saw Lou & the boys backing Dave Alvin in 1991 or 1992 and immediately went out and bought their CDs. There are a couple of Skeleton backed DA shows at (featuring Lou asking the musical question..."You girls goin' south?")

Bobby Lloyd Hicks toured with Dave for years so there are also several shows that feature Lloyd singing the Johnny Otis classic "Crazy Country Hop".

Anonymous said...

Hello! In NOLA for Jazzfest and went by Louisiana Music Factory for some in store performances and saw The Iguanas covering Waiting for my Gin to hit Me. Being staunch Skeleton/Morell fans, you can imagine our thrill. We googled it, thinking it was a cover and found this blog. Enjoyed your stories. The band said they heard the Skeletons version. It's on their new release- Sin to Sin. Back to the music. Thanks, Susan of Richview, IL